Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Learning to write again

Okay, okay.  It's been awhile.  My husband has been cajoling me to start writing again or at least write a farewell note. In the past month about 10 people have asked why I'm not updating my blog, and so I'm going to take this as a sign that I need to write. That and the fact that I've been feeling that familiar itch again (writing that is).

I don't know where this is going, or if I want to continue my blog, but here goes for now...

Sunset on the Ohio River
This past year had really low lows and really high highs.  I know, I sound like one of those tv ads for  anti-depressants.  The year really tested my ability to see things as "glass half full". I just didn't always feel too happy to tell you the truth.

My mom's passing about 15 months ago affected me much more than I expected.  Preparing for her death was so different than preparing for life without her.  There is still a profound sadness at her not being here to share in daily life, and I miss the phone calls and the visits and the laughter.  And there are still tears when I least expect them.

Then there is the realization that I am an adult now responsible for all my own decisions without a parent to run things by. Crazy I know, at age 61. Then the other day I realized I didn't have a parent looking over my shoulder at how I was doing things.  And you know that lack of "critiquing" was a bit of a relief.  Recently I realized that I was no longer living to please my parents. That was a weird but liberating feeling.

Getting out for a walk
My sister had a tough year after being diagnosed with breast cancer in January.  More doctor visits than you care to count, a couple of surgeries, hospitalizations, tubes, stitches, infections, and the list goes on.  She handled it all pretty well and was quite pragmatic about taking all the steps necessary to get through it. She had a good support system of family and friends, and she was very smart to accept help from people.

I spent a lot of time with her after these surgeries, and I was so happy to be there for her.  I was fortunate to be retired and only a few hours away.  Because of my own battle with breast cancer 7 years ago, it felt like we were kindred spirits tackling this together.  In some ways it was very cathartic to help her, and in other ways all those painful memories from my past came crashing back like that rogue wave that knocks you over when you are aimlessly walking down the beach.  Just when you think those feelings are all worked out, you realize they aren't far from the surface.  Anyway, she is doing very well now with another surgery scheduled for next year. And she has a great positive attitude which is the best possible situation.

Lunch with Mike in Cinque Terre, Italy
And then we've had some memories that will last a lifetime.  Mike took a sabbatical from work, and we went to Tuscany for a couple of weeks. If I had a "bucket list", this would have been on it.  We spent a week touring Tuscany with our favorite American-Irish band, Switchback, and then we rented a car and drove into the mountains to research where Mike's family came from.  Though we didn't meet up with any relatives, we were able to find the small towns where his grandparents and great grandparents were born.

We simply loved Tuscany.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, and the people were warm and welcoming.  The food and wine were amazing, and we agree that if we ever had to leave this country, we are probably headed to Tuscany.  Ok, I know that probably sounds very weird, like we're going to be in the witness protection program or something.  No plans for that so don't jump to any conclusions if I don't continue with the blog...

No lack of mud on the Jeep Jamboree

We traveled to Pennsylvania for a Jeep Jamboree.  We spent a long weekend in the beautiful woods driving over coal roads and testing our Jeep and Mike's driving capabilities.  We all survived very well, thank you!

The Pacific Ocean

We also visited Portland, Oregon and soaked in the beauty of the countryside including the beach and Mt. Hood.  And then there was a family trip to Nashville, TN and several trips to Ohio for my nephew's graduation from The Ohio State University and my niece's wedding shower and wedding.

Brian and Allie

Family trip to Nashville

My hollow form ring

And we continue with jewelry classes which are a wonderful way to learn and keep the brain sharp.  Hours can fly by when I'm intently working on a jewelry creation.  I was fortunate to win best of show for the Jewelry and Metalsmithing section of the Student Art Show.  I think luck was on my side for that one!

So, a crazy year of ups and downs.  Weighed pretty heavy on me really.  Possibly it was so busy that I didn't have the time I needed to process things.  I don't do well when life is so busy that events propel me forward from one to the next.  I need down time and didn't always find much of that over the past year.

But you know I survived the year ok and am feeling more optimistic about what is ahead.  I recognize a need to write again-not sure what the medium is yet but that will work itself out over time.  In the meantime, thanks for being patient. Thanks for encouraging me. And thanks for reading.   Take Care, Diane

Monday, November 14, 2016

Enameling jewelry class

Sunset over the airport

It has been a tough summer for working on jewelry, but we are getting back into the swing with a 7-week class on enameling at the Indianapolis Art Center.

The first thing I learned was I didn't know what enameling was.  I thought it was paint, but it is really finely ground glass "powders".  And you adhere this glass "powder" to metal by heating it with a torch or kiln.

And there are a few safety considerations...you have to wear a mask and goggles when working with the glass so you don't breathe it in or get in your eyes.  You need to use tongs and large forks and leather gloves when working with the box kiln so you don't get burned in the 1500 degree F. heat. And you have to clean up your work surface of glass particles so the next person doesn't get them in their hands and arms.  Think about the feel of fiberglass insulation on your hands and you get the idea...
Opaque green and yellow enamel earrings with fern design. 

We are working with copper metal and first learned about opaque enamels. Basically you sift the enamel powder on the copper and then fire it in the kiln.

I tried my hand at a pattern by placing a small fern leaf on the metal before I applied the powder.  Ok, I need to work more on this technique!

The next thing we learned about is transparent enamels.  One key difference here is that you add water to the transparent enamel and paint it on the copper.  After firing the piece, you can see a very different type of effect:

Transparent orange and yellow enamel copper disk

Anyway, Mike and I LOVE this class.  It is a very new technique for us, and the creative possibilities are endless.  Here are a couple of pieces Mike is working on:

Opaque guitar and transparent green and orange disk.

Friends Pat and Kay (also a Ronald McDonald House volunteer), Mike and me.
This is also the time of year when various organizations hold their annual dinners.

We attended the Ronald McDonald House Volunteer Appreciation dinner at the Children's Museum.  It was a lovely event where volunteers are recognized for their service to the two Ronald McDonald Houses that serve Riley Children's Hospital.

A special treat for me  was meeting Ronald McDonald!
Woohoo it's Ronald!

Last week we attended the annual Indianapolis Zoo Nussbaum dinner for donors.  It's always interesting to learn what the zoo is up to and about their great conservation efforts.  Plus it's a rare occasion to dress up for a fancy dinner.

Yes those are blue toes and a green foot...

And by now you realize I am a klutz!   On the Saturday before Halloween, we were getting ready for our annual Halloween Party, and I sprained my foot coming down the stairs from the attic.

Yes, this is the same foot with a sprained ankle in August.  I am annoyed and ticked and a few other choice words.  It has been quite swollen and green and blue over the past two weeks. And if I stand or walk much, it hurts!

I have been wearing a boot and started physical therapy last week.  Since it's my right foot, I've had to rely on Mike to drive me places.  I have been hobbling about for two weeks now, and this is getting very tiresome...as you might imagine I'm a terrible patient!

And even though I can't get outside and enjoy the great Fall weather, I have been enjoying watching the beautiful leaves in the yard.
Yellow leaves covering the yard and park bench...

I hope you have a great week and can find time to get outside and enjoy this amazing weather.  And don't forget the "huge" moon this week.  Seems close enough to touch it...


Monday, October 24, 2016

Learning to laugh again

Two months have passed since my last blog post. I know that's a very long time, but I didn't feel like writing.  Simply put, I've been grieving since my mom died in early August.

It's been an unexpectedly tough road.  I thought I was prepared for her death, but I didn't understand the void she would leave in my life. At first I was walking in a daze, and if you ask me now about the events of the past few months, it's kind of blurry.  Initially there were the crying jags, and if I had a couple of days without crying I felt like I was getting through things well.  I struggled to find happiness in normal everyday things. I would look at people and marvel how lighthearted they seemed.  It was a dark place for this "glass half-full" person.

I haven't been an easy person to live with. I've been moody, stressed and intense, basically "Debbie Downer".  Mike doesn't complain, but he gives me a lot of space (or maybe he's just getting out of the line of fire).  I have had migraines and stomach aches and trouble sleeping.  No doubt about it. I've been a mess.

And we started dealing with cleaning out mom's house and getting it ready to sell. At first it was very hard to go into the house, but without mom being there, it became a house with possessions.  Possibly I was compartmentalizing, but this separation of mom from the house made it easier for me.

And if there was a glimmer of light during this time, it was how well all of the siblings got along. We would work together on cleaning out the house, and then we would have dinner together and talk and laugh.  We went to Owensboro, Kentucky to see my nephew, Adam, compete in a regional cross country meet.  We had a great lunch together at Weinzapfel's Tavern, and remembered dad drinking coffee there each morning with the guys.  We sat around a bonfire at my sister's house and ate pizza and laughed.  And it occurred to me while walking this morning that we were continuing the tradition of when we gathered at mom and dad's for a meal, stories and lots of laughter.  I suspect mom and dad are very happy that we are continuing that without them.

At Ange's house for dinner after a long day of working on mom's house.

Family support for nephew Adam's state semi-final cross country meet.  He came in 12th and advances to state!

Sisters Pam and Ange.

Eric, Gary, Angie, Judy and Pam at Owensboro regional cross country meet.
With nephews Dane, Rich and Adam at Weinzapfel's Tavern.

During the past couple of weeks, I am feeling some happiness again.  The sky seems brighter blue, and I am enjoying the crisp Fall air.  I find myself laughing more which is a good sign.

I still have sad moments every day.  A song, or a phrase, or a memento startles me with a memory of mom or dad.  I try to not fight those emotions, but I let them in, and they seem to pass more quickly now.

My friend Ruth sent me this poem which describes it well:

The Guest House
by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

And I guess it's true that time heals, but I think it's more than that.  I've been praying a lot, and I can see that God is helping me find my way.

And this morning when I reviewed the pictures I've taken since July, I can see all the people who've been pulling for me and with me.  And I am so thankful for all those people...

With Melanie, Chuck, Cathy, Mel and Mike celebrating Cathy's birthday.

Visiting with Elena.

Enjoying an afternoon with Gretchen.

Hanging out with Mike.

Evening with Mike, Chuck and Melanie at a David Wilcox and Beth Nielsen-Chapman concert.

With Pam and George at Irish Fest.

Lunch with Craig, Gretchen and Mike.

Visiting with Stan.

Stacy and Stan enjoying an evening on "the old deck". 

Brian and Mike.

Dinner with Garth and Chris.

Thanks for bearing with me the past few months and continuing to read my blog after this long hiatus.  I appreciate it!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Tribute to mom

A drive to the river bottoms this Spring
This is a tough one to write. I've been dreading it but needing to write at the same time.

My mom passed away in early August at age 84.  She was a breast cancer survivor, but she couldn't win against lung cancer which she had been battling the past several years.

In April of this year she started at home hospice care, but because she was such a fighter we all thought death was far down the road.  It wasn't.  I'm sure mom knew that, but she didn't let on and continued to live her life fully until the end.  In fact the night before she died, she enjoyed a banana split with her grandsons Adam and Dane.

I hope I have a fraction of her fighter spirit.  When she had breast cancer, my dad also had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  She cared for him through his chemo, and when he was finally finished with treatment, she then started her own radiation.

When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she went through chemo which resulted in being hospitalized several times. She was on oxygen all the time over the past 8 months and often mumbled under her breath when the oxygen tube would get caught on a chair or the couch.

When her leg was bothering her from vascular problems, she would use a cane or walker, and she was increasingly unhappy that she couldn't get outside to get the mail or look at her flowers.

Making wreaths together

And every time I visited this Spring there was another project to do.  She wanted new curtains for the bathrooms and basement windows, and I would send her fabric options on her iPad so she could select the color and pattern she wanted.  I added rug binding to latch hook rugs that she made and hemmed up a new comforter that fit her hospital bed.

She wanted a new bush in front of the house, and Mike and I took her to the neighboring town of Newburgh so she could pick out the exact bush at the nursery.  She bought a new couch this Spring, and we were always changing out her curtains or artwork.

I know she always wanted things to look good, and I suspect this was one of the few things still in her control in her final months and weeks.

Mom's cross stitch project!
The hospice nurse was a godsend. She was caring, compassionate and a straight shooter, and mom really liked her.  She drained fluid from mom's lungs a couple of times a week, she helped manage mom's meds and answered countless medical questions. And she was there when mom passed away, along with my sister Angie, a cousin and neighbor.

Over the past few years of watching her fight lung cancer, I thought I was mentally preparing for her passing.  But you never really prepare for the day when your mom is gone.  There is a quote I saw shortly before mom died,  "My mother taught me everything except, how to live without her."  That is so true.

I still want to call her every night and talk about my day and how she is doing. When I fell last week and hurt my ankle, she is the first person I wanted to call.  When I walk through her house and remember her at the kitchen table, I am sad. I cry at the oddest of times when I remember something she said or did.  I can't bring myself to watch Shark Tank because it was one of her favorite shows. And what will The Voice be like this year without she and I discussing the contestants and coaches?

And now we are beginning to deal with her house and the contents.  My siblings and I spent several days last week working on this. Although it went well, tears lurked around every corner.  And if one person started to cry, the waterworks were on for everyone.  But we also had some great family time together, and somehow I think she and Dad were smiling down on us.

And yet I am so happy that she is with God and no longer suffering.  Several months ago I had a dream that my dad told me he was ready for her, and he was really happy in heaven.   I know they are together again, probably drinking a beer, playing cards and visiting with their own parents and siblings. And I can't be sad about that.

Giving Mike a noogie
Now she lives on in the spirits of the lives she touched.  She influences so many things in me: my work ethic, my sense of humor and sarcasm, my overachiever attitude, my sensitive side, my (overly) critical nature, my green thumb, my love of family, my crafty nature (I mean my love of crafts), and my spiritual side.

And her words still echo in my head "You and Mike are retired. You need to slow down."  "You are doing too much. You need to relax more." And these haunted me last week when I hurt my ankle when were repairing the deck.  I had a mental image that she was shaking her head.

So the days go by, and I keep expecting this to get easier.  When I have a couple of days without tears, I think it's getting better.  And I find myself praying more often, and I know I'm  extra clingy with Mike and my siblings and friends.  And somehow that's the legacy she left all of us...our faith and the strength of family.  And what a gift it is!  Thanks mom and dad!  Have a beer for me...

Family picture

Outtake from family picture!
Take care,

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Flowers, fireworks and 4th of July

It's that time of year when colors abound!  Brilliant flowers are popping everywhere along with the fireworks.

Here's my annual expose' on summer flowers(most of them in my own back yard)...

We love our "Life is Good" t-shirts!
For the first time in many years, Mike and I stayed in town for the 4th of July.  It was a crummy, rainy weekend, but we still had fun. We headed to  Nashville, Indiana for some shopping and lunch at a favorite pizza place.

Next we headed to the outlet mall with thousands of other like-minded people who were looking for an activity they could do in the rain.

Hey, shopping is an American tradition, isn't it!?

Normally we watch our town's fireworks from our front yard, but this year Mike wanted to go to our town park and enjoy the fireworks firsthand.  We gathered up lawn chairs and hiked to the park where we enjoyed "fair food" and a ride on the Ferris wheel.
Enjoying the Ferris wheel with Mike!
View of the midway from the Ferris wheel

As darkness settled in, we set up our lawn chairs in the park and enjoyed the show.  The fireworks were right overhead and absolutely stunning.  Ok, and a bit scary as debris rained down on my head.

Mike, Diane, Elena and Atanas
We enjoyed a lovely evening with friends Elena and Atanas at our local Irish Pub.  Nothing like sitting outside on a cool summer evening and catching up on life.

Mike, Melanie, Diane and Chuck

Last Saturday we spent the afternoon visiting with Chuck and Melanie in Broad ripple.  A couple of pitchers of margaritas was a perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday.

And of course it is an unwritten law that you must enjoy ice cream in the summer! One of our favorite places is the "Frost Bite"!  Last week Mike introduced me to the "Big Berry"in a small town near here.  Gotta love these names!

And as you might expect, we always find weird sights in everyday life...

We drove by the "Eat Mor Chicken" cow today.  One minute he was standing by the side of the road...

And then he was being led away...

Did he violate some company policy?  In trouble with the law?  Or merely couldn't see in his costume?

Like everyone, I've been very troubled by the violence and unrest this past week.  If only we could do what is inscribed over this church doorway...

Take care, and to quote Ellen: "Be kind to one another".